Previous research demonstrates a plethora of variables which influence people’s fear of death. Research findings suggested the correlates of death anxiety are numerous ranging from age, gender, and religious beliefs to ethnicity, death education, depression, experiences with death, occupations, life regrets and meaning of life as well as exposure to death (Aday, 1984; Dumont & Foss, 1972; Hunt, 2000; Lonetto & Templer, 1986; Schiappa, Gregg, & Hewes, 2004; Siscoe, Reimer, Yanovsky, Thomas-Dobson, & Templer, 1992; Thorson & Powell, 1990). Unfortunately, the empirical findings within the fear of death research contain conflicting evidence. Some studies report a linear relationship between age and death anxiety, whereas other research suggested a curvilinear relationship, with middle aged individuals displaying the highest fear of death (Cicerelli, 2001; DePaola, Griffin, Young & Neimeyer, 2003; Kastenbaum, 2001; Neimeyer, Wittkowski, & Moser, 2004; Tomer & Eliason, 1996). Despite this discrepancy, the existence of gender difference in death anxiety seems clear: women consistently report greater levels of anxiety than do men (Aday, 1984; Davis, Bremer, Anderson, & Tramill, 1983; Iammarino, 1975; Lonetto & Templer, 1986; Siscoe, Reimer, Yanovsky, Thomas-Dobson, & Templer, 1992; Stillion, 1985; Thorson & Powell, 1993; Young & Daniels, 1980).
When other correlates are considered, research is again inconsistent. The influence of religion, ethnicity, death education, or experience with death on death anxiety cannot be consistently quantified. Additionally, research suggested people’s occupational choices and exposure to death via the media both also contribute to death anxiety (Hunt, Lester & Ashton, 1983). Also, researchers have noted the relationship between death anxiety and depression to be a positive one (Templer, 1967, 1969, 1970; Ochs, 1979; Gilliland, 1982). Another factor, according to Tomer and Eliason (2005), is past life regrets and their findings suggested minimized past life regrets, impacts individuals’ acceptance of death. Consequently, the conflicting results within the research literature encourages further exploration into the nature of death anxiety.
The general objective of this research was to develop a better understanding concerning how older male veterans face the reality of death. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between predisposition to death and past life regrets with respect to death anxiety among male veterans 45 years or older, who were not in the workforce. The sample was a criterion sample with rules of inclusion which included: individuals were male veterans, 45 years-old or older who were no longer in the labor force, successfully completed the clock drawing test and were able to read and complete all the administered surveys independently. Ninety-five male veterans from the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center successfully completed the Clock Drawing Test and responded to three surveys. Specifically, participants filled out the R Questionnaire (to measure past life regrets), the Collett-Lester Fear of Death and Dying Scale (CLFDS, to measure death anxiety), and a questionnaire requesting for background information (to measure health status, depressive symptoms, sense of meaning, religiosity, exposure to death, and spirituality). The findings showed that an increase in Past-life Regret was significantly (p<.05) associated with an increase in anxiety towards death, however, the extent of meaning found in life was not significantly (p<.05) associated with less anxiety towards death in the causal model. This study hoped to provide a better understanding about the factors which impact the fear of death and grant people, more specifically psychologists, dying veterans and their families, an open forum to acknowledge and discuss their fears and anxieties concerning death.